£200K salary for NHS ‘fat cat’ chief nurse slated

St Albans City Hospital

St Albans City Hospital - Credit: Archant

While St Albans Hospital has undergone the loss of its accident and emergency department and other cost-cutting measures, it has emerged that a nursing chief has hit the ‘pay jackpot’.

Conservative candidate for St Albans Anne Main has reacted to revelations that West Herts Hospitals NHS Trust paid a substantial salary to its interim chief nurse, Jackie Ardley.

Responding to a series of investigative reports published this week in the Daily Mail criticising the salaries of “NHS fat cats”, Mrs Main described the findings as a cause for concern.

Yesterday the Mail reported that the trust - which runs St Albans, Hemel Hempstead and Watford Hospitals - paid Ms Ardley over £200,000 for just 10 months work.

It said her cost to the health service, of about £20,000 a month which included her salary, VAT and agency fees, amounted to what many nurses earn in a year.

Mrs Main said: “News that some NHS bosses have seen huge salary increases at a time of pay restraint is a cause for concern.

“In the wake of these stark revelations it is time we looked at the top pay of those who work in our public services to consider whether or not the structure ought to be amended.”

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She said that in November last year she lodged an early day motion, calling upon Parliament to rein in the pay of very senior NHS bosses, particularly in the face of frontline staff providing “excellent service” despite years of pay restraint.

A spokesman for the trust said that Ms Ardley was appointed to the organisation on an interim basis while it recruited a permanent chief nurse.

Ms Ardley was responsible for leading the trust’s 2,500 nurses, midwives and healthcare assistants. She was also director of infection, prevention and control and, with the medical director, had overall responsibility for the safety of patients across all three local hospitals.

She was employed via a recruitment agency and continued in the role longer than originally planned.

Following the recent hiring of a chief nurse, Ms Ardley was then appointed as interim director of governance, and is due to leave the trust tomorrow.

Its spokesman said that it had also had difficulty recruiting a permanent chief operating officer.

Interim chief operating officer Bernie Bluhm, who left the organisation in March last year, continued in the role longer than planned and was paid an average day rate of £1,060 - amounting to over £163,000 - for 154 days work.

The organisation’s current overall deficit for 2014/15 is £13.1 million, subject to final audit.